Modern outdoor learning environments inspire children to be active, adventurous, creative and imaginative. It is now more important than ever to provide a safe and durable flooring, to allow your children to be able to explore and discover in safety, without restrictions to their creativity. No play surfacing will stop or reduce falls, but what they can do is reduce the severity of a fall, reduce injury or even prevent accidents. If it’s a sport-surfacing you are after, then there are also many interesting options for your MUGA (Multi-Use Games Area) or outdoor sports areas. In fact, there are so many different safety and sports surfacing options available today, it can be both confusing and hard to decide which one is best for your unique setting. So, here at Schoolscapes, we have created this simple, but comprehensive, guide to popular playground sports and safety flooring options; these have been safely and successfully tried and tested by a multitude of little feet, in our bespoke, innovative, outdoor play creations across the country.
Rubber Surfaces are designed to cushion the impact of a fall and reduce the severity of an injury.
What is Wetpour Rubber?
Wetpour provides a very attractive, soft, durable and safe playground flooring. It consists of rubber granules that are mixed with an adhesive binder and spread as a continuous surface onto a hard surfacing such as concrete, tarmac or stone. It provides a beautiful smooth, even surface and can be used safely with play equipment with a fall height up to 3.2 metres. It has great impact absorption, is non-slip, abrasion resistant, porous, has low maintenance and can incorporate any design in a multitude of colours. Black is the cheapest option, but the extensive colour range, enables inspiring, educational and creative designs to be incorporated into the surfacing. Its vibrancy and clean look will bring any playground to life!
What is Resin Bound Rubber Bark?
Also known as Bonded Rubber Mulch and Playbond, Resin Bound Rubber Bark (RBRB) provides an economical and natural looking alternative to Wetpour. It is made from 100% recycled rubber scraps, bonded together to form a long lasting, attractive and versatile rubber play surface. It has the advantage of looking like bark, but also has the beneficial life-span of rubber. It’s a great choice for any play space, as it also has high impact absorption, requires no foundations and can be laid in different thicknesses. It is suitable to cover uneven surfaces and can even be laid around trees! It is porous, letting water through effectively, so it doesn’t stay wet. It requires low maintenance; however, it will sometimes need wind-blown seeds to be removed. It is an ideal surface for where a traditional grassy area would get muddy and comes in a range of natural colours, or in a blend of two colours. RBRB is certainly a very popular option, helping to create safer play spaces nationally.
What is Cellular Rubber Matting?
Cellular Rubber Matting is easily an installed, environmentally friendly rubber safety matting. It is constructed with a moulded non-slip cellular structure, cleverly designed to absorb impact, shock and noise. The rubber tiles provide a very durable playground flooring and the holes allow grass to grow through, providing safety in a natural looking play space: grass will soon pop up through the matting and can even be mowed! They can be laid on flat or contoured surfaces and can be self-installed or professionally installed, making them an affordable option. If the ground is boggy or unstable, they can be combined with Ground Stabilising Mesh. The tiles are pegged into the ground and easily lined up. The porous design allows water to easily drain through and provides a stable surface making the area accessible to mobility equipment and protecting the grass from erosion. They are very versatile and flexible and can be cut to any shape to closely fit around equipment, as well as being available in different thicknesses, providing children with protection from falls from heights up to 2 metres.
What is Polymeric Sports Surfacing?
A Polymeric Sports Surface is a rubber flooring, similar to Wetpour, but adapted for use as an all-weather sports surface. The rubber is thinner and firmer underfoot and coated with an anti-slip coating, making it ideal for a variety of sports and ideal for Multi-Use Games Areas (MUGA). The surface is porous allowing water to drain through, making it perfect for schools by offering year-round usage.
Polymeric Surfaces are constructed by mixing rubber granules with a resin binder and then applying the rubber to a porous tarmacadam surface. This mixture is then levelled to leave a smooth finish and left to cure. To provide the high degree of slip resistance required by sports such as tennis and netball, a special non-slip final coating can then be sprayed onto the surface. This anti-slip coating is available in a variety of colours (red, light and dark green, light and dark blue). The surface can be one colour or a two-tone effect; then anti-slip line markings can be applied on top in different colours for each sport. On a standard rubber MUGA, the design commonly includes line markings for several sports like netball, tennis, football and basketball which all will have different coloured sports lines installed onto the rubber surfacing.
What is Rubber-Gravel Mix?
Rubber-Gravel Mix combines the flexibility of rubber with the strength, appeal and durability of natural stone aggregate. It can be used as a base, underneath products like Wetpour, Artificial Grass or Bound Gravel or as a stand-alone surface. Porous and slip resistant, Rubber-Gravel Mix allows for sustainable drainage and can be useful for pathways or connecting areas.
ARTIFICIAL GRASS SURFACES:
What is Synthetic Grass?
Synthetic Grass provides a very natural solution for any active play space. Children love it, because it is soft to touch and gives the appearance of a green lawn all year through; it is a very tactile and aesthetically pleasing option and is available in different pile thicknesses. It is very versatile solution and can be used effectively on both flat and sloping surfacing, as well as being laid flush to trees. It can even have a foam ‘shock pad’ installed underneath, providing a bouncy, safe surface under play equipment with a Critical Fall Height (CFH) of up to 2 metres. One benefit is that it provides a virtually maintenance free safety surface which can be used all year around, as it has excellent drainage properties. Another bonus is that it is relatively cheap to install, providing an economical option for covering large areas. Although traditional green is very popular, Synthetic Grass comes in many colours and can be used to add interesting colourful design to any modern play space.
What is Synthetic Turf?
There are several different types of synthetic sports turf available (Astroturf is just a brand of Synthetic Turf). They generally fall under these headings:
Sand Filled Synthetic Turf:
An artificial grass carpet made from synthetic yarn, filled with silica sand to the top of its pile, which helps to keep the pile standing upright (Silica Sand is quartz that over time, through the work of water and wind, has been broken down into tiny granules. It is very hard wearing). This makes it a hard-wearing surface, where the ball bounces a bit like it does on tarmac, making it suitable for sports like hockey, football and non-contact sports such as tennis and tag rugby.
3G (Third Generation) Long-Pile Synthetic Turf or Rubber Crumb Pitch:
An artificial grass carpet made from synthetic yarn, with a much longer pile than the two sand-filled/dressed options above, but it is also less dense. The 3G turf carpet is partially filled with a base layer of sand and then is filled on top with small rubber granules to 50% to 75 % of pile height. This pitch is ideal for sports such as football and rugby, where the ball with react the same as it would on grass.
What is Loose Fill?
Loose Fill is any material that can be poured into a play space to create a safe play environment, for example Sand, Pea Gravel, Bark Chippings etc. They can provide a natural looking, tactile surfacing with impact absorbing properties (be aware that sand can become hard when its wet). Loose Fillings can be easily self-installed to varying depths, which makes them both a versatile and an economical option. Loose Fill can also be a messy option, as children often will transport the sand, gravel and bark away on their feet or clothing, or enjoy using the loose materials in their play. This natural dispersion of the chosen loose material through wear and tear and weathering, usually results in the need for sweeping up the escaping materials, so these areas will inevitably need topping up repeatedly over time, to maintain the correct depth required. Fill products can also deteriorate over time and can also sometimes conceal sharp objects or animal waste, so play spaces containing Loose Fill will often need checking over for safety and even may need replacing at some stage; these elements all provide ongoing costs.
Sometimes hard surfacing may be a hard-wearing, suitable option for specific parts of an outdoor area, especially for pathways and large, open spaces.
What is Resin Bonded Gravel:
Bonded Gravel is a hard-wearing decorative surface with a textured finish. It is not porous, meaning water doesn’t drain through and the rough texture gives the surface a natural effect. Bonded gravel is laid by scattering stone gravel onto a resin base. The gravel is available in a range of colours which can be used to match existing exterior features. This may be useful for pathways and connecting spaces, or even useful for a walking track.
What is Resin Bound Gravel:
Resin Bound Gravel is a high quality, decorative, gravel surface and is applied using coloured gravel, bound together with resin to form a smoother, natural appearance, compared to loose gravel. Coloured gravel can be used to incorporate graphics and designs or to match exterior masonry. It comes in a range of colours and blends and the gravel surface is extremely hard wearing and provides visually stunning finishes. Bound Gravel is the ideal surface for pathways and walkways.
What is Tarmacadam:
Tarmacadam (Tarmac) is a durable, hard wearing, low maintenance surfacing for paths and walkways, school playgrounds and Multi-Use Games Areas (MUGAs). It is a dark, bituminous material which is poured and then levelled and compacted. Following installation, the macadam needs to be left to cool for a few hours. It forms a solid, hard-wearing surface, however it is not impact absorbing and will not protect children in a fall. It is an ideal surface for applying both fun, educational Playground Markings and Sports Line Markings and can be literally be painted with special playground paint either professionally or independently, to create limitless designs.
Helping You to Decide:
Don’t worry if you still can’t decide which playground flooring you would like installed, as our experienced and innovative design team can help you to plan both your equipment, safety flooring and sports areas in a bespoke design perfect for your unique setting. It’s always a good idea to look ahead and think about any future outdoor play requirements, as it can be expensive to cut into safety surfacing to make changes. Why not let our knowledgeable experts listen to your needs and guide you in transforming your play space in the most exciting, effective and efficient way possible, so you avoid expensive alterations in the future? Our family business and dedicated team would love to collaborate with you to transform your play space and create a lasting outdoor legacy for children to safely learn, grow and play on way into the future!
For any further information or for design advice, please contact our friendly team. The table below also will help you consider the sports surfacing that is best for you.